Japan

14 Things To Do In & Around Okinawa, Japan’s Underrated Tropical Gem More Singaporeans Should Visit

Things to do in & around Okinawa


If your brain instantly serves you up an image of Tokyo when you hear the word “Japan”, we don’t blame you. Between your friends, relatives, and IG feed, everyone seems to be flocking to the bustling capital. 

You, however, probably want a peaceful holiday, parked on the beach, with waves rippling under your feet while you’re munching on some cheap and tasty onigiri. And for that, we’ll throw a suggestion in your direction. Here’s Okinawa and a list of things to do in and around Japan’s little “Hawaii” that’s only a 3-hour flight from Tokyo.


What you should know before visiting Okinawa


Given the island’s small size, people usually spend anywhere from 3 days to a week visiting Okinawa. That said, you’ll probably want to factor in additional time if you’d like to visit the outlying islands.

Frequent travellers will know that there’s always a best time to visit Japan to beat the crowds. In Okinawa, it’s not so much the hordes of people you need to be weary of, but the typhoons. It’s generally best to avoid visiting in the summer months from June to August, as that’s when the prefecture is most susceptible to typhoons.

The rest of the year is still enjoyable to visit, but locals recommend spring or fall – February to April or October to November – for cooler weather.

Despite its small size, getting around Okinawa is not the most convenient for those who do not drive. Those staying in Naha, the main city, can make do with visiting attractions located near the city’s monorail stations.

Public bus services tend to be infrequent but they will bring you to suburban areas and rural beaches. Or, you could rent a bike from bike-sharing operator Chura Chari. A 1-day pass costs ¥1,650 (~S$14.65) and grants you unlimited rides around Okinawa.

Still, the best way to get around is to drive. Car rentals are plentiful and you can usually pick up and drop off your rented car at Naha International Airport. You can even hire a driver with your car, so you don’t have to worry about navigating around Okinawa.

Book car rental with hired driver in Okinawa.


1. Cruise the ocean on a glass bottom boat


So you want to see coral reefs and come face to face with manta rays but don’t want to get your hair wet. We feel you. That’s why we’re sending you on a glass bottom boat tour.


Image credit: @remalomboktourclub via Instagram

On good weather days, you’ll be in crystal clear water, seeing all the way to the bottom of the ocean and crossing paths with hundreds of marine species. If you come into low visibility or a storm, you’ll get a full refund. That, IMO, is a pretty good deal.

Image credit: @sarah_mib via Instagram

Book a glass bottom boat tour.


2. Tour ancient village Taketomi on buffalo cart


The strategy here is to stay in Okinawa but make day trips to the surrounding islands like Taketomi. It’s just as dreamy and only requires a 15-minute speed boat ride.

Image credit: @gomako_____ via Instagram

Hop on a ferry at Ishigaki Port Terminal and head towards Taketomi Port. As soon as you arrive, you’ll be greeted by Taketomi’s pristine patch of sand, rows of ancient red tiled roof houses, a weaving museum, and buffalo carts at the ready for your island moseying.

Image credit: @auntii via Instagram

Technically, you can explore the village on foot. But it’s not an everyday thing that you can ride a water buffalo, so take the chance. 

Book a Taketomi buffalo cart tour.


3. Navigate through a mangrove forest on canoe


If you need a bit more action, then right this way towards a mangrove forest on Yubu island.

Image credit: @ritoful_official via Instagram

Here, you can choose between canoeing and stand-up paddleboarding down the calm water, backdropped by intertwined branches. While paddling along the river standing looks cool for the ‘Gram, those with kids in tow or first-timers can stick with an easy peasy canoe ride that’s still going to be a lot of fun.

Book a canoe or stand up paddle boarding at mangrove forest.


4. Go stargazing on a midnight cruise


Good news: you don’t have to drop $500 on a telescope and trek to the middle of nowhere to stargaze. Not when there’s a stargazing cruise near Okinawa that lets you see 84 constellations of the Milky Way from the sea.


Image credit: Klook

At night, the sky’s so dark it’ll explode with stars and you might be able to see shadows cast by the light of the Milky Way. But if you ain’t a night owl, opt for the sunset version that’s equally majestic. Don’t forget your camera.

Book a sunset or stargazing cruise.


5. Explore downtown on a go kart


Forget about seeing the city on bike or bus. There’s a wild tour that takes you around the busy streets of downtown Okinawa on go-karts.

Image credit: @yuqiiiiing via Instagram

Before hopping into your whip, you can – and should – slip into a free costume. The options are pretty solid including Superman, Batman, or even Minion outfits. Each go-kart session runs for up to 2 hours and there’s an instructor to guide you along the way. 

Image credit: @okita_tea via Instagram

Just make sure you have your driver’s license with you and brush up on your driving skills in the meantime.

Book a street go kart tour.


6. Dive into Okinawa’s Blue Cave


Don a scuba mask, strap on fins, and take a dive. You’ll know you’ve reached the famous Onna Village’s Blue Cave when the water suddenly turns a vivid turquoise colour.

Image credit: @activityjapan via Instagram

At this shallow diving spot, no certificates or experience are required. In fact, children as young as 6 years old who want to see corals, angel fish, and eagle rays can take a trip down under with the help of an instructor. 

Image credit: @kyokonishijima6607 via Instagram

Oh and, there won’t be any sharks. Just you, a crew of divers, a bazillion tropical fishes, and shimmering shards of light cutting through Gatorade blue water. When you book a dive, you’ll immediately get a free waterproof camera to use underwater.

Book an Onna Village Blue Cave dive.


7. Snorkel around cluster of 22 islands


Diving is dope but if you can’t swim for several minutes and tread water once you reach the bottom, go snorkeling instead.

Image credit: @supereeeisus via Instagram

Over at the cluster of 22 islands known as Kerama near Okinawa, the water is so clear you’ll be able to spot miles of corals and groups of sea turtles without straying too far from your dive boat, which also happens to be the fastest kind in Okinawa. Once you get out of this Maldives-esque body of water, you can dry off on arguably one of the most scenic stretches of sand in Japan.

Book a Kerama islands snorkeling tour.


8. Shop for snacks & souvenirs at Makishi Market


You could wait till you get to the airport to pick up a box of Tokyo Banana at the duty-free shop before racing to the gate. Or, you can jaunt down the alleys at the iconic Makishi Market in Okinawa with snacks in one hand and souvenirs in the other.

Image credit: @mariedanslegers via Instagram

It’s a 60-year-old historic wet market meets hawker centre that also happens to have dozens of gift shops and drinking holes. Some must-tries include sashimi and fresh lobsters which can be grilled on the spot. 

Don’t miss out on the Okinawa soba that’s made entirely from wheat flour.
Image credit: @chiiiisuke0322 via Instagram

TBH, all of the dishes here are probably legit so feel free to sample a bit of everything.

Visit Makishi Market.


9. Go on a shopping spree at an American-themed village


Image credit: MATCHA

If shopping is a non-negotiable for most of your vacay abroad, then the Mihama American Village is where you should head to.

Built on an old military airbase, this spot is both colourful and quirky. Things to do at this American-themed attraction include emptying the shelves at the ¥100 store, dominating the arcade games at Dragon Place, and having at least a few Tex-Mex dishes like fajitas at Taco Loco. Not to mention, the giant ferris wheel that gives the entire village solid California vibes.

American Village
Google Reviews
4.2
(18,128)
Address
Mihama, Chatan, Nakagami District, Okinawa 904-0115, Japan
Opening Hours:
Wednesday 10:00 AM - 10:00 PM Show More Timings

10. See the impressive rock formations at Cape Manzamo



Image credit: @raffineu via Instagram

Okinawa is called the Hawaii of Japan and Cape Manzamo will prove why. The rocky cliff formations project 20m above the East China Sea, overlooking the crystal clear ocean below.

But the crashing waves aren’t the only pics you’ll want to snap for the ‘Gram. Take a step back and you’ll see that the limestone has been naturally eroded to form an elephant’s trunk. The cliffs are also covered in rare plants, and you might spot ones like soldierbush, identifiable as shrubs with tiny white flowers.

Book a day trip to Cape Manzamo.


11. Visit the colourful Lily Festival on Ie Island



Image credit: @okinawa_lin via Instagram

Cherry blossoms and Japan are pretty much synonymous with each other. But if you missed Okinawa’s season in January, there are fields of lilies you can visit in April instead. The annual Lily Festival sees rows and rows of colourful lilies in full bloom on Ie Island.

Needless to say, you’ll want to come prepared with your best ‘fits and candid poses so you can update your dating app profile pic. The native white Easter lilies are the most common, but there are other colourful varieties from around the world as well, like the yellow Canadian Lily and Red Spider Lily.

Book a trip to Ie Island.


12. Feed cute squirrel monkeys at Ishigaki Yaima Village


You might already be familiar with Japanese culture if you’ve taken frequent trips to the main archipelago. But Okinawan culture differs slightly from the mainland, and there’s one place you can experience it: the Ishigaki Yaima Village.

The preserved traditional settlement showcases how Okinawans used to live in pre-modern times through its music, food, and clothing. You’ll notice that the only humans you’ll find here are tourists who’ve stopped by.

Its main residents are actually a troop of 60 or so squirrel monkeys that have completely overtaken the village. Inquisitive by nature, you’ll soon find these adorable critters climbing all over you, curious to explore their habitat’s latest visitor.

Book a trip to Ishigaki Yaima Village.


13. Sip pineapple wine at Nago Pineapple Park



Image credit: @earth.traveler_sj via Instagram

You wouldn’t think pineapples as a fruit Japan would be famous for, but Okinawa is known for its pineapple plantations. While the fruit isn’t grown for export, the farms are now an amusement park you can visit.

Nago Pineapple Farm offers guided tours that share a fun and in-depth look into the history of pineapple farming on the island. You’ll also get to savour pineapple treats like ice cream and even pineapple wine.

Book a ticket to Nago Pineapple Farm.


14. Take a trip to a small, small world at Little Universe Okinawa


Sure, other museums might have miniature dioramas detailing various historical periods, or full scale ones which you can walk through. But we’re willing to bet not many of them will shrink you down to scale as well.

Now you can, at Little Universe Okinawa. There’s a 3D scanner that’ll scan your body, which is then converted into a tiny digital display that will be able to “walk” through the various scenes on display.

Get tickets to Little Universe Okinawa.


Bookmark these things to do in & around Okinawa


This Okinawa trip will see you putting on diving gear to check out badass underwater caves and creatures, lounging on white sandy beaches, and visiting historical sites. Honesty, it’s going to be a relaxing holiday that you deserve. 

Before you go, do yourself a favour and pre-book your attraction tickets on Klook. The booking process is quick and easy, and you’ll get instant confirmation. If you have a change of plans, simply cancel up to 48 hours prior for a full refund. 

Klook also gives you the option to rent a car or arrange for airport transfers so your trip can be completely stress-free. There’s even a 1-day bus pass to take you around the island which you can book in advance. That way, you won’t have to worry about the logistics when you arrive.

Now, yank your suitcase out from under the bed and pack, quick.

Find out more about things to do in Okinawa

 


This post was brought to you by Klook.
Cover image adapted from @activityjapan, @supereeeisus & @ritoful_official via Instagram
Originally published on 5th December 2022. Last updated by Mattias Tan and Raewyn Koh on 8th April 2024.

Samantha Nguyen

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